Sermon Series: A Place to Call Home
Title: A Place at the Table
May 12, 2019
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Some of my earliest memories are of my family gathered around the dining room table. My mother was a stickler for a “sit down” family dinner every night. Money was always tight so we rarely ate out – maybe once a year my dad would treat us to a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken! My mother was an adequate cook, she got the job done. She knew she had to prepare meals for a family of six on a small budget and so she was pretty methodical about it – she was also born and raised Methodist, so the methodical-ness wore off on her!
Every night for dinner we would have a baked potato, a quarter of a grapefruit and whatever “main dish” she had made for the night. Casseroles called hamburger casserole, ravioli pie, goulash, well you get the idea. I was in college before I came to understand that grapefruit isn’t usually a dinner menu item.
Like I said, she got the job done – potatoes to fill our bellies and grapefruit with a healthy dose of Vitamin C to keep us healthy! She was a master. There were three girls in my family – we each would be called upon to do one of the “dinner” jobs – set the table, cut the grapefruit (you know with one of those curved grapefruit knives), and one of us would wash the potatoes. We had it down to a science. My brother of course got out of those chores because he was the “trash man.”
My mom would call us to the table, and we would bow our heads, say a blessing and share in a meal together, laughing and talking about the events of the day. It was a wonderful family tradition. I always loved that time together. A place at the table. A place of welcome and reassurance that I was part of a family, part of something beyond myself.
Our series, A Place to Call Home has reminded us of the importance of home, of belonging and being a member of the Family of God. As Christians we all have a place at God’s table, a place of sanctuary and grace. We are part of God’s family and as such we both receive radical hospitality through Jesus Christ and offer radical hospitality as we serve others, being the hands and feet of Christ.
Through our communion liturgies, the reenactment of Christ’s Last Supper, we are reminded of the connection we all have together, through the sharing of the juice and the bread. We know through that connection, that God will always be with us, in times of joy and sorrow.
Today we celebrate Mother’s Day. For some mothers today is a day of celebration and reverence. A time to honor and be honored. To be spoiled with breakfast in bed, a special gift and a time of relaxation and restoration. (Of course some mothers are working today!)
For other mothers, today is especially tough as memories flood through of another time and place. Today reminds them of the child gone astray, the child who has gone to be with the Lord or the child never experienced. Some may be remembering their own mother who has long gone to be with God. Like so many of our special days, there is a mix of emotions to be felt. Having a place at the table allows relief and peace knowing that God always is with us, offering comfort and encouragement.
Our scripture reminds us of the love and devotion God has for us. When we submit to God, he appears, as our shepherd, and calls us to submit and become his sheep. “Those foolish creatures, driven entirely by appetite, easily lost and often in peril. I heard a preacher years ago say, “Sheep nibble themselves lost.”
“And then, the shepherd. We romanticize them as rural simpletons. But rulers throughout the Ancient Near East were called shepherds. As a business, flocks could number in the tens of thousands, so shepherding required considerable administrative savvy.” When we were in the Holy Land, we saw shepherds, they were a bit rough in appearance, and nothing like the image in my mind.
“Yet the shepherd’s care can be tender and personal. It was common for shepherds to give sheep names.” Remember the care that Jesus demonstrated in the story about the shepherd of the 100 sheep and having lost one, they dropped everything until they found the lost soul. “Jealous, protective, resilient, doggedly loyal: shepherds. No wonder the angels chose them for their audience when Jesus was born.”
The shepherd takes care of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. When we are hurting, he restores our soul. God never leads us astray but always on the path of righteousness. Then in Psalm 23, verse 5 we read, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
I want you to imagine that scene – God prepares a beautiful table, set with the finest china and silver. It’s a magnificent meal before us. Across the table from us sits our enemies. The person who has done you wrong, the one who tried to destroy you. The one person in the entire world who aggravates you the very most, there they are, witness to the blessing God is giving you. Why would God do that?
Why sit you down at his table, in the presence of your enemies? I would imagine that it would elicit some indigestion in most of us! Are we to be used as an example to those who have yet to know God, those enemies of ours, enemies of God’s? Perhaps it is done to entice the enemy to repentance when witness to the radical hospitality offered to us by God.
Some suggest that in the moment that you are at God’s table there are no enemies, “the Lord’s table is the place where reconciliation begins and ends.” It’s certainly biblical when we consider Luke 14 where Christ teaches us to not invite our friends or family to a dinner knowing that they will reciprocate. Instead Jesus tells us in verse 13,
13 …when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
“We are to make peace at the table, not with our pals but with those where relationships are broken or nonexistent.” We are to bring our Christian charity and tradition to the table, the table of love and acceptance. I am reminded of the Parable of the Long Spoons, where the love of the people of faith is demonstrated so beautifully.
“One day a man said to God, “God, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.”
God showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of stew. It smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water, but the people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished.
They were holding spoons with very long handles and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. God said, “You have seen Hell.”
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people had the same long-handled spoons, but they were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The man said, “I don’t understand.”
So, God invites us to the table in view of our enemies and he anoints our head with oil. An ancient tradition performed by the party host to welcomes their honored guests. It was a symbol of importance and reverence. Being in the presence of our enemies, we find safety and security. God always keeps us safe. He assures us in Psalm 23 verse 6 that “goodness and mercy shall follow us, all the days of our lives, and we shall dwell in the house of the LORD our whole life long.
Through the example of Psalm 23 we are taught to demonstrate kindness, love and grace with those who join us at the table as we receive and share radical and extravagant hospitality.
all time mothers have been imitating Gods welcoming grace, demonstrating the
radical hospitality that God teaches us in our scripture today. As we remember that we all have a place at
Christ’s table, let us also remember the tables where we welcome others, where
we are imitators of Christ’s love and acceptance. Let us be conduits of God’s radical and
extravagant hospitality, now and always.